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Some thoughts and information to share on exercise

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Hi Folks,

On this board I have often read how exercising can abort an attack and that is because of the increased oxygen associated with vigorous physical activity. This idea about the extra oxygen provided by exercise never sat well with me. Even before I learned about busting and gained more knowledge about clusters, whenever I felt an attack coming on during the day I intuitively felt it would be a good idea to lift weights or do some exercise, and it usually always aborted the attack. So, I recently came across a site that discussed Hemicrania Continua and it mentioned that HC sufferers get relief from what the webmaster called the Valsalva manoeuvre (www.hemicraniacontinua.com).

     I quote,

"The Valsalva manoeuvre is... the action of attempting to exhale against a closed airwave. Many sports professionals routinely if not knowingly perform the Valsalva manoeuvre during physical exertion."

In my experience I think that this aspect of exercise - the holding of the breath periodically as part of the act of exerting force when flexing muscles is what terminates my head attacks during vigorous exercise. I am speculating that this triggers something in the hypothalamus and provides the actual relief and not "extra oxygen" otherwise yogic breathing and hyperventilation techniques would provide relief as well no?

     Has this topic ever come up for discussion before? Is there any real evidence that exercise provides sufficiently higher levels of oxygen equivalent to an O2 tank with non-rebreather mask to abort an attack? And to add to the paradox of this poorly understood dimension of our shared affliction, for me vigorous exercise can often trigger an attack hours later or later that evening during my REM sleep, so again there may be a relation between this valsalva action and hypothalamic activity.

     Any thoughts on all of this would be much appreciated!



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Hi Cludster,

Firstly, exercise can sometimes bring on a CH for me and definitely makes one worse if there's even a shadow.

But I do have a tendency to hold my breath and to shallow breathe, asleep and awake, have tried CPAP with no joy, but am now looking into diaphramatic breathing after a consultant recommended it and explained that CPAP doesn't strengthen my breathing muscles.

Idea behind this is obviously to improve my breathing, but also he says should increase my blood oxygen levels to see if it help the CH's, it's only been 3 weeks so far so no change in CH's as it could take months if at all, but my energy levels, sleep and breathing have all improved already, far better than CPAP.

So  basically it's like turning myself into a CPAP machine day and night, so that way I won't starve my brain of oxygen at all, day or night.

.......slightly off on a tangent, sorry.

You say about a CH sometime after exercise too, I wonder if that's due to testosterone levels dropping after exercise rather than O2 and testosterone levels supposedly drop naturally in the evening also for both males and females, thought I'd mention this since there's some interest in T and CH at the minute.

Anyway, everyone's different and I'm different than most  ;D, but interested to see where this topic goes and was intrigued to see that you sometimes get a CH after exercise too.


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